Gracefully Truthful

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Discover the original intent of Scripture. Make good application to our everyday lives.
Become equipped to correctly handle the Word of Truth!

Read His Words Before Ours!

Luke 12:49-53

I came to bring fire on the earth, and how I wish it were already set ablaze! 50 But I have a baptism to undergo, and how it consumes me until it is finished! 51 Do you think that I came here to bring peace on the earth? No, I tell you, but rather division.

52 From now on, five in one household will be divided: three against two, and two against three. 53 They will be divided, father against son, son against father, mother against daughter, daughter against mother, mother-in-law against her daughter-in-law, and daughter-in-law against mother-in-law.

The Original Intent

1) If God is loving (John 3:16), and Jesus is God (Matthew 1:23), why did Christ say He wished the world were “set ablaze”? (verse 49)

Context matters tremendously when studying Scripture! Prior to Christ’s statement in Luke 12 that He wished the world were already ablaze, He exhorted His disciples to have no fear, to be bold in acknowledging Him before men, and to recognize the brevity of life.

He told them not to be anxious about anything in their lives, neither food, nor their bodies, or their clothing. He reminded them that God cared for the ravens and provided for them, then went on to tell the disciples they should be faithful, ready servants at all times. (Go read chapter 12 in full; #HisWordsBeforeOurs)

When Peter asked if what Christ said was just for the disciples, or for the crowds (verse 41), Jesus responded with a question to illustrate the measure of a faithful servant in God’s eyes. It was on the heels of all this that Jesus issued His shocking statement and claim that He wished the world were already ablaze, and that He came to bring division, not peace.

For greater understanding, we must see that throughout the Jewish people’s history, God frequently encountered His people through fire.

Fire was present when God made the covenant with Abraham and promised his offspring the land from the river of Egypt to the Euphrates. (Genesis 15:12-21) When God spoke to Moses, He did so through a burning bush. (Exodus 3:2-4) He led the Israelites through the wilderness with a pillar of fire (Exodus 13:21) and descended on Mount Sinai in fire (Exodus 19:16-25)

The disciples, and Jewish crowds around them, would have been familiar with encountering God through fire. Their initial understanding would not have been that Jesus desired the fiery destruction of the world, but that His words conveyed a meeting with their holy God. 

The Everyday Application

1) If God is loving (John 3:16), and Jesus is God (Matthew 1:23), why did Christ say He wished the world were “set ablaze”? (verse 49)

When I read seemingly contradictory statements in Scripture, it can be tempting to turn to a different passage, or write something off as beyond my limited human understanding in order to bypass uncomfortable feelings. Sometimes, it is challenging to sit with a passage or verse for an extended period of time and wrestle through it in prayer with the Lord to  seek a fuller understanding.

As I was thinking about the gentle, lullaby-like lyrics to Silent Night, this passage of Scripture returned to mind over and over. Jesus’ words in Luke 12:49-53 were spoken with the authority of the Lord of all creation.

While His birth was the next step in the fulfillment of God’s plan, His arrival was anything but quiet.

Christ came to meet with God’s created people. Where we sinned (and sin still), Christ came to make the way of reconciliation. Just as Yahweh came to meet with Moses on the mountain in a blaze, just as He led the Israelites through the wilderness in a column of fire, so came the Lord to meet with His people through Jesus.

Time after time, the one true God came to meet with His created people and make a way. Jesus Christ, the Savior of the world, came as a defenseless baby. A God-man, born to live, then to die, and come back to life again, so that all who repent of their sin and put their trust in Him may have eternal life, and life abundant. Praise God, Christ the Savior is born!

The Original Intent

2) If Jesus Christ is the Prince of peace (Isaiah 9:6) and the source of all peace (Ephesians 2:14-22), how is this consistent with His declaration that He came to bring division? (verses 51-53)

When Christ walked the earth in human form, family life was vastly different from what many of us consider normal. Multiple generations frequently lived together, and the nuclear family was not a reality. Instead of a husband and wife and their children, a family unit extended from a father and mother to their children, their children’s spouses and their children’s children.

Tradition and religion went hand in hand. The tradition and religion of the parents were carried out by everyone in their household. When Jesus spoke about the division that would occur between those who would repent of their sin and put their trust in Him, and those who would reject Christ, the relational rift He described would have been shocking.

The specific language of those in deep, close family relationship landed exactly as He intended. The division He spoke of was not something He desired to force upon people, but would instead be fulfilled by humanity’s free will: the willing choice some would make to reject salvation in Jesus. Jesus Christ is the Prince of peace, as Isaiah 9:6 states. He is the source of all peace, just as Ephesians 2:14-22 indicates.

Jesus Christ knew that all mankind would not choose to accept the salvation of peace He came to give, and that there would be many who would reject Him and His offer of peace with God. He knew the present, past, and future, because Jesus is God.

He could confidently assert that He would bring division, because He knew what the future would hold as He held out forgiveness to the world (John 3:16), but only a few would choose the narrow pathway of Life (Matthew 7:14).

He knew that some people, even His own Jewish people, would choose to embrace sin and stay apart from Him, rather than repent and embrace Him and the salvation He offered as Prince of Peace. 

The Everyday Application

2) If Jesus Christ is the Prince of peace (Isaiah 9:6) and the source of all peace (Ephesians 2:14-22), how is this consistent with His declaration that He came to bring division? (verses 51-53)

Birthed into the chaos of a world in utter darkness, Jesus brought peace because He Himself IS divine peace. He did not come to keep peace, but to provide Himself to all those who would receive Him.

When I read the account of Christ’s birth and life, the accounts of His interactions with the disciples and His interactions with people He ministered to, His gentleness can sometimes soften the reality that Jesus Christ is Reigning Lord of all creation.

The reports of His life, death, and resurrection are powerful and real, but in my humanity, I often focus on just one part of Who He is and fail to consider and meditate on the fact that “Baby Jesus” was also Lord of all creation from His birth. (Colossians 1:15-17)

Further, I am convicted there are times when I still do not live as though He is my Lord. When challenging circumstances threaten my comfort, when shocking news is delivered to those I love, or when an outcome is not what I hope for, I’m forced to examine whether my trust is shaken, or whether I have truly determined that Jesus is my Lord in all situations.

Sometimes, by the grace of God, I am rock steady and securely surrendered to His absolute Lordship of my life and of all things. Sometimes, however, my frail flesh rears its ugly head, and I rail against the things He’s permitted to touch me and those I love.

Regardless of my faithfulness, Jesus Christ is faithful, and He is Lord of all. Strengthen my faith, Lord. Thank You, Jesus!

The Original Intent

3) In what way do Christ’s words in this passage point to the good news of the Gospel and the peace made available to us through Him?

Jesus Christ was and is the long-awaited Messiah. Israel’s promised Savior fulfilled prophecies and promises handed down to the Jewish people throughout the course of their history.

The very Son of God was physically present and speaking to those around Him, describing what He knew would come to pass as Jews and Gentiles alike repented and put their trust in Him alone. Those around Him may not have understood the full implications of what He was saying in the moment, but the truth of His statements remained. The salvation He came to bring was not political or economical, as the Jewish people expected their promised Savior would bring.

Instead of leading a revolution against the enemies of the Jews, Jesus came heralding a heavenly kingdom completely different from the physical world. (Luke 17:20-21) He called people to repentance, love-in-action, and humility, not rebellion and war. (Matthew 5:3-10)

Though there would be those who would reject Him, there would also be those who accepted Christ and His gospel. While Jesus desired all to repent of their sin and come to Him (1 Timothy 2:3-4), division between those who would accept His salvation and those who would reject it was inevitable.

The Everyday Application

3) In what way do Christ’s words in this passage point to the good news of the Gospel and the peace made available to us through Him?

The outward practices of the religious leaders at the time Jesus spoke these words were not so different from the things I sometimes find myself doing today.

There is no shortage of needs and opportunities to help others, but no matter how I serve, if my motivation is “doing for doing’s sake”, or only because it’s what I think I “should” do, or for the vain purpose of others noticing what I’ve done and then think well of me, I’ve fallen into the same sinful trap as the religious leaders of Jesus’ day.

Christ didn’t come to offer us a salvation of works-righteousness or a checklist of indulgences to be paid or earned. The peace and wholeness He offers is complete in and of itself because of Who He is.

It is freely available to all who will repent of their sins and put their trust in the finished work He completed when He died the death we sinners deserve on the cross and was then raised to bodily life. Glory to God in the highest, Jesus Christ was born! 

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